Phil Kirby enjoyed the best day of his training career to date at Wetherby on Saturday as Nautical Nitwit and Lady Buttons took black type races on the way to providing the North Yorkshire-based trainer with a treble.
Fast ground decimated field sizes for Wetherby’s day in the sun, but Kirby will not be bothered one jot as the diminutive Nautical Nitwit landed the bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle and stable star Lady Buttons prevailed in the OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle.
Nautical Nitwit (15-2) looked up against it on the ratings, especially as jockey Tommy Dowson was unable to claim the 3lb he would have been entitled to in a handicap.
However, he stuck gamely to his task to hold off Bryony Frost on Old Guard by a length and a half.
“I would never have believed he’d be winning a Grade Two but he’s so tough,” said Kirby.
“He’s not a good jumper at the best of times and he made a blunder at the last but it didn’t stop him.
“It’s been a great day. This place is close to home for us which means it’s close to the pub!”
Lady Buttons went one better than last year in her race to give jockey Adam Nicol the biggest success of his career.
Outstayed by Le Bague Au Roi 12 months ago, there was nothing of that class in the opposition this time yet she was still available at 7-2.
Taking up the running at the second-last, she beat Mystic Sky by a length and three-quarters meaning she is now a Listed winner over hurdles and fences.
“She’ll probably go back over fences now but I’m not sure what for,” said Kirby.
“I’m sure before today she was well enough handicapped to win a big one, which was why I kept taking her to Ireland, but I’ve probably blown that.
“She’s a better chaser, I think, but the options aren’t obvious.”
Only three went to post for the bet365 Handicap Hurdle and Kirby fielded two, but neither were favourite, with Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Supakalanistic granted that honour.
He had no answer to Weymss Point (7-4), however, who made all to give Downson a double.
The bet365 Novices’ Hurdle was won by subsequent Betfair Hurdle winner and Supreme Novices’ runner-up Kalashnikov last season and while Thistle Do Nicely (10-11 favourite) might not be in that class, he remained unbeaten.
Jamie Snowden’s charge travelled well in behind the leaders and Tom O’Brien did not have to get serious on him to win by 10 lengths.
“He’s a nice horse, we bought him after he won a bumper for Tom Lacey,” said Snowden.
“I shouldn’t have run him in the Listed Bumper at Newbury in February on bad ground but I couldn’t buy a horse and then not run him again really.
“He’s beaten a horse rated 125 there and he’s certainly improved for going over hurdles.”
Nightfly (5-2 joint-favourite) defied top-weight to win the Danny Megson 40th Birthday Celebration Handicap Chase for Charlie Longsdon.
Racing over two and a half miles for the first time over fences, she got the trip well in the hands of Johnny Burke.
“She’d been struggling over two miles yet when we tried her over further over hurdles she wasn’t getting the trip,” said Longsdon.
“She’s bred to get further and has always looked like she would and she got it well today. Fences have helped and that opens up a few more doors.”
Fingerontheswitch (2-1) won for the second time over fences in the opening Enjoy The Jumps On Racing UK Handicap Chase.
Neil Mulholland’s eight-year-old was on the verge of becoming disappointing but running for the second time since undergoing a wind operation, he rallied well to beat The Paddy Pie by a neck.
Winning jockey Adrian Heskin said: “What he wants is three miles and good ground, so this was perfect for him.”